The One-Sixty is Merida’s longest travel full suspension bike, with 160mm of rear travel and a 170mm travel fork. Designed as a big, burly all-mountain rig made for going down steep and rough things very fast, we put the One-Sixty test bike into the paws of our local plummet-specialist, David Hayward, to see just how fast he could go. Over to David!
The One-Sixty 7000 is the mid-range model of Merida’s higher end enduro bikes, and over 2015’s entirely aluminium equivalent, this one has a carbon fibre front triangle coupled to an aluminium rear. Through that, it claims to have shed half a kilo over its predecessor too. The black version we were sent has a very high quality finish, especially the carbon bits showing sharp boundaries between matt and high gloss sections. Some parts of it are so glossy that they’re really good at showing dust, fingerprints and reflections. A good coating of Pennine mud soon made all of that unnoticeable, though didn’t damage it easily.
Up front it bounces on a 170mm Lyrik RC, and out back one of Rockshox’ new metric Super Deluxe RC3 trunnion shocks. The new standard metric shocks are being sold pretty hard this year, but the main reason this new standard exists is to sweep away the weird inconsistencies of the old standard, theoretically making frame designers lives easier in the process.
Related to this, “trunnion” is also a word that’s been flying around a lot this year. Partly this is because it sounds much sexier than “gudgeon”. Again, this isn’t in itself some must-have new feature that your bike won’t bounce as well without. What it means is just that the linkage connects to the sides of the shock rather than the top, making a bit more room for total shock length, or giving frame designers a little more scope to lower standover. These things are rationalisations of mountain bike suspension, and as such innovations that are focussed back at the bike industry. Just in case you get all razzle-dazzled.
Also from Rockshox is the Reverb seatpost, which at 125mm seems a tad undersized for modern bike geometry, and driving the One-Sixty forwards is a Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain, with the 46 tooth Shimano cassette option (more on this and the seatpost later). The drivetrain is finished with an MRP 1x chainguide, and if you find chainguides are overkill on single ring setups… well, this might not be the ideal bike for your riding.
As with the previous edition of the One-Sixty this rolls on DT Swiss wheels, but one thing that really caught my eye compared to the spec of previous models was the Maxxis DHR II tyres front and back. So many test bikes we get at Singletrack have absurdly optimistic summer tyres, and it’s a refreshing change to see one shod appropriately for British weather. The DHR II is one of my favourite all rounders; a good front in summer and a good back in winter. You could swap the front out for something burlier (like a Shorty) or the rear for something faster rolling (like an Aggressor), and have rubber for every occasion.
So far so good on the spec, but Merida are a brand some people get oddly snobby about. I don’t trust snobbery, thinking of it not just as a personality defect but a cognitive one. This of course makes me a meta-snob, and riding bikes is a perfect way for me to not think about that too much. Taking this bike out for the first ride, I went in assuming it could be as good as anything else I’d ridden.
Initially, I set sag at roughly 25% and took this on a few loops of my local moors. On loop one, I got nowhere near full travel. For loop two I sagged everything more precisely to 30%, and used a bit more travel. For loop three, I gave it a little bit more sag and started getting near full travel, but the Lyrik then felt too prone to sitting in the mid-stroke, so I firmed everything back up a little. Then I went six miles down the valley to try some steeper and more technical riding, and wham. Full travel on every descent. Shock pump out at the bottom.
This is very different to my experience of 160mm enduro bikes built around Pikes and the last generation of Rockshox shocks. Generally I’d found they could be set up once at correct sag, then ride passably on most trails. Of course, everything can be optimised and tuned to specific trails, and you might do this if you race, or travel to ride a bike park for a week, but for the day to day chop and change of riding loops hither then yon, tuning to trail conditions could get obsessively excessive. With this Merida, I ended up setting it up for the gnarliest riding I do, and accepting I’d just have to ride it faster to make much use of the travel elsewhere.
This is a big bike, and to get the most out of it, you have to either give it a lot of rider input, or a lot of trail. I loaned it to a a more XC-oriented friend for a ride, and on twisty moortop singletrack, they absolutely hated it. You really have to get on the gas and boss it about to draw the personality of the bike out; anything less and it feels like it’s yawning at you.
Point it down though, and it’s sixty laughs a minute. Two wheel drift? That drop? That trick you’ve been struggling with? That roll in so silly you didn’t even realise it was a trailhead? It’ll probably all be fine. Sometimes I found that by the time I’d finished screwing up a given thing, the bike still had travel and traction to spare. I got used to things coming right, and became accordingly lairy.
The one minor fly in this ointment was the 125mm dropper post. I’m not particularly tall, yet on this medium test bike still had plenty of seatpost showing above the seatclamp. Mostly this was fine, but on the steeper descents I occasionally wanted to get the seat further down, and there’d easily have been room for a 150mm post.
I never felt the shock bottom out, even at the softest suspension settings I ran. While Merida has obviously redesigned the linkage for the new shock, the progressivity seems to be a characteristic of the old One-Sixty they’ve kept, but with one important difference: compared to the 2015 model Barney Marsh reviewed for Singletrack, this One-Sixty also climbs pretty well.
When I say pretty well, I do mean for a bike with a 170mm fork and a 65.3° head angle. Given two equal riders, the One-Sixty’s not going to give a 100mm carbon XC hardtail much of a contest on marathon climbs, but even if you leave the shock in one of its two softer modes, it doesn’t bob horrendously when you’re spinning uphill. Of some help for this too is the 46T cassette, which deserves a little unpacking if you’ve not examined one closely.
Nowadays my legs are well calibrated to 42T cassettes paired with 32T chainrings, so this took a little getting used to. An XT 46T cassette uses exactly the same ten smaller sprockets as a 42T XT cassette, it just jumps from 37T straight up to 46T, rather than 37T to 42T. This basically gives you a much more exaggerated bailout gear, and in practice that meant I did most climbs with the 37T sprocket or smaller. If I drifted up onto the 46T, it was noticeable enough that I’d tell myself off and go back down the block a bit. When I did need the 46T, for instance to conserve energy on technical climbs, it was a very handy thing to have.
The Merida One-Sixty 7000 took a little bit of getting used to, but not much. It’s designed for the kind of riding I enjoy, but does it slightly differently. If you don’t ride it hard, it feels kind of like a working dog you don’t walk enough. More average terrain can feel a bit flat and lifeless under it, but once you start finding the limits it’s a proper laugh.
About four months into the test, the bike developed a gear indexing problem that took me a couple of rides to track down. I could get either half of the cassette shifting well, but not all of it at once. At first I lubed the inner, then reindexed, then wondered about the mech hanger, then changed the inner. Only when I was doing that did I realise that the suspension action seemed to have been gradually pulling outer through and toward the chainstays, compressing it into a sharp curve hidden behind the chainring. As soon as I eased this off and reclamped it, the indexing was fine. It’s a small issue, but worth knowing about and keeping an eye on.
The Shimano drivetrain otherwise shifted fine, though I can see why Merida has spec’d the MRP chainguide – if you back pedal while in the lower gears on the cassette, the chain can derail off the chainring. This never really presented itself as an issue on the trail (only Wil dropped the chain once) but it was obvious on the workstand. It’s also a slightly moot point, as Shimano’s latest 1x cranksets have moved to a newer narrow-wide chainring design that we’ve found to be much more reliable for chain retention.
As the months ticked by and the temperatures dropped, so too did the Reverb’s return speed. The closer your riding conditions are to freezing, the stickier the post action becomes, and the less audible the top-out. This is pretty standard for Reverbs we’ve tested, but it’s still annoying for winter mountain biking in the UK.
Also irritating was the Variable Bite Point™ feature exhibited in the Shimano XT brake levers. This seems to be a production issue that has settled down on newer bikes, but we did experience it on the Merida. On long descents if you get a bit of heat into the brakes, the bite point can wander quite dramatically. In one case, I went to pull the front brake lever and there was no throw at all. Getting off the brakes to let them cool momentarily usually returns them to normal, but it’s still disconcerting. If this happens to your bike, best take it back to the bike shop for a warranty assessment.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- The 125mm dropper post is conservative by modern standards
- The cable routing around the bottom bracket created some minor indexing issues, though once you’re aware it takes seconds to sort out
- SRAM torque caps. I tested a different fork on this bike too, but because of the enlarged end caps, couldn’t use the same front wheel. D’oh!
Three Things I Loved
- The amount of travel and progressivity this bike has meant it ate rocky descents for breakfast, all the while without really being able to feel bottom outs
- The 46T cassette provides a good bailout ratio for climbing on such a burly bike
- The DHR II tyres front and back are a good, all round match for UK conditions and variable weather
Just like me, and like most of the bikes Singletrack picks for me to review, the Merida One-Sixty doesn’t mind climbing, but is more suited to going down. If your riding takes in more rolling hills than death-gnar plummets though, it’s probably worth looking down range at the Merida One-Forty instead (see Wil’s First Ride review here). This is a lot of bike after all, but if you live somewhere steep it’ll be a lot of fun; the bike and the world really laugh with you.
Note: Since receiving our test bike, Merida has introduced new spec options for the 2018 One-Sixty model range. The replacement for our bike here is the One-Sixty 6000, which uses an identical frame and a very similar parts spec, albeit with a move to a SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain and SRAM Code disc brakes. You can see the bike on the Merida website here.
Merida One-Sixty 7000 Specifications
- Frame // Carbon Fibre, 160mm Travel
- Fork // Rockshox Lyric RC, 170mm Travel
- Shock // Rockshox Super Deluxe RC3, Metric w/Trunnion Mount
- Hubs // DT Swiss Spline E1700, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // DT Swiss Spline E1700, Tubeless Ready
- Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4in 3C MaxxTerra EXO Front & Rear
- Chainset // Shimano Deore XT M8000 32t
- Chain Device // MRP 1x TR Upper Guide
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT 11-Speed
- Shifters // Shimano Deore XT 11-Speed
- Cassette // Shimano Deore XT, 11-46t, 11-Speed
- Brakes // Shimano Deore XT, 203mm Front & 180mm Rear
- Stem // Merida Expert 3D Forged Alloy
- Bars // Merida Expert Alloy, 760mm Wide
- Grips // Merida Lock-On
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth, 30.9mm Diameter, 125mm Travel
- Saddle // Prologo Nago Evo
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large
- Claimed weight // 13.79kg
- RRP // £4500
|Merida Bikes, merida-bikes.com
|by David Hayward for 7 months